Taxi Summit: Providing Effective and Accessible Taxi Service
Remarks, James Simpson, Administrator, Federal Transit Administration
It is a pleasure to be here on behalf of President Bush and Transportation Secretary Mary Peters. In 1990, President George Bush Sr. signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law. In the last seventeen years, we have seen the ADA make the dream of access a reality. Yet, there is still work to be done to build a transportation system that provides all individuals with opportunities for independence and a good quality of life.
In a recent survey on disabilities conducted by the Harris Poll, more than 54 million Americans, almost 20% of the population, reported having a disability. The 2000 Census showed that only 60 percent of people with disabilities are employed. Lack of accessible transportation was cited as a major factor.
FTA is committed to filling in the gaps between human services transportation and public transportation services and expanding transportation mobility options so that individuals with disabilities can fully participate in the workforce and their communities. As part of this commitment, we are very excited about our New Freedom Program, which supports new public transportation services and public transportation alternatives beyond those required by the ADA.
I applaud the hard work that many of you put into advocating for this program and appreciate the many written comments you submitted to FTA. I am pleased to tell you that FTA recently issued our final guidance circular that outlines programs eligible for funding, including accessible taxis!
Our goal at FTA is to help individuals and communities meet their public mobility needs by building “a family of transportation services.” In addition to fixed-route bus and rail service, FTA promotes demand responsive paratransit services, accessible taxis, and car and vanpool ridesharing programs among many others. Accessible taxis are a valuable resource because of the flexibility that they offer to riders with disabilities. They also offer flexibility to local paratransit service operators who contract with the taxi companies.
I recently had the opportunity to read an article written by Terry Moakley [Taxis for All] where he describes his surprise and delight at arriving at the Las Vegas airport to find an accessible taxi available to transport him to where he needed to go. Terry’s taxi trip was a success for Terry, who got to his destination quickly, without advance planning or reservations and a success for the taxi company that made a profit from his taxi fare. His trip serves as a great example of using public private partnerships to meet the needs of people with disabilities.
Ensuring that transportation is accessible for everyone is important to President Bush and Transportation Secretary Mary Peters. As you know, President Bush issued an Executive Order in 2004, which challenged us to reduce duplication, enhance cost effectiveness, and simplify access to transportation services for Americans who need help getting where they need to go.
I am proud to serve as the Chairman of the Executive Council on Access and Mobility and United We Ride which was created to meet this challenge. We are excited about working with our federal partners across 64 programs in order to simplify access for consumers. The council recently launched a new campaign: ONE VISION/ONE CALL. The VISION is that regardless of where you live, who you are, where you are going, what type of ride you need, or which agency is paying - you can get what you need through ONE phone call.
Also, the Council has successfully adopted two policy statements: The first focused on Coordinated Planning, which resolves that all partners should participate in a locally developed coordinated plan to meet the transportation needs of people with disabilities, older adults, and individuals with lower incomes. The second statement focused on Vehicle Sharing, which resolves that federally supported grantees that provide transportation should coordinate their services in order to maximize accessibility and availability.
FTA is also proud to support Project ACTION-a national technical assistance center on accessible transportation. Project ACTION has been actively working with the Taxicab, Limousine, and Paratransit Association to explore opportunities to increase accessible taxi services. In addition, Project ACTION produces informational materials for taxicab operators so that they can better serve individuals with disabilities.
When President Bush signed the ADA he said, “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down.” The ADA addressed accessibility needs, but mobility continues to be a barrier for some individuals with disabilities. We at FTA know that in order to truly breakdown the wall of exclusion we must continue our work to make transportation easier to use, build partnerships of many diverse interests, and always remember that we are here to serve our customers—all of you. I encourage you to continue your work to remove these barriers and I am optimistic that I will hear many stories of how transportation opened doors and created opportunities for others like Terry and Sherrone.